Post Primary Education – Education Ireland MY

Post Primary Education

Secondary education in Ireland aims to build on the foundation of primary education to provide a comprehensive, high quality learning environment to enable all students to live full lives and to realise their potential as individuals and citizens.

The secondary-level education sector comprises secondary, vocational, community and comprehensive schools. All of these schools provide the Certificate courses prescribed by the Department of Education and Skills, enter their students for the same national examinations and are subject to inspection by the Department.

Secondary Schools

Secondary schools , which educate approximately 54% of second level students, are privately owned and managed. The majority are conducted by religious communities and the remainder by Boards of Governors or by individuals. Over 95 per cent of the cost of teachers’ salaries are met by the State. In addition, allowances and capitation grants are paid to 91 per cent of secondary schools, which participate in the free education scheme. Traditionally, these schools provided an academic type of education but in recent years have tended towards the provision also of technical and practical subjects.
Over thirty Irish secondary schools provide boarding facilities and many of these have a strong tradition of enrolling students from abroad. In addition, a number of English language schools and private agencies assist overseas students at second level with application formalities and with finding home-stay or other accommodation.

Vocational schools and community colleges

Vocational schools and community colleges educate over 33% of all second level students, are administered by vocational education committees which are statutory bodies set up under the Vocational Education Act, 1930, as amended. Vocational schools are funded up to 93 per cent of the total cost of provision. The balance is provided by receipts generated by the committees. Initially, the main thrust of these schools was directed towards the development of manual skills and preparation of young people for trades. Nowadays, however, the full range of second-level courses is available. Vocational schools are also the main providers of adult education and community education courses.

Comprehensive schools

Comprehensive schools combine academic and vocational subjects in a wide curriculum. They are managed by a board of management representative of the diocesan religious authority, the Vocational Education Committee of the area and the Minister for Education and Science. The schools are financed entirely by the Department of Education and Science.

Community schools

Community schools are managed by Boards of Management representative of local interests. These schools offer a broad curriculum embracing both practical and academic subjects. They also provide facilities for adult education and community development projects. These schools are entirely funded by the State through the Department of Education and Science.

Second level education in Ireland generally starts at the age of twelve and consists of a three year Junior cycle followed by a two or three year senior cycle.

The Junior Cycle: The Junior Certificate Examination is taken at the end of junior cycle in post-primary schools. The Junior Cycle caters for students aged from twelve to fifteen years and students normally sit the exam at the age of 14 or 15, after 3 years of post-primary education. Students must follow a number of core subjects which includes Gaeilge, English, Mathematics, Social Personal & Health Education, Civic, Social and Political Education and two other subjects from a list which includes languages, Science, Business Studies, Art, Music etc. In addition, students in Secondary Schools must study History and Geography.The Junior Certificate is assessed by means of a written examination at the end of the three-year programme, along with practical examinations and project work in some subjects and oral and aural examinations in Irish and continental languages.

The senior cycle has been significantly restructured in recent years and now offers a “Transition Year” which provides an opportunity for students to experience a wide range of educational inputs, life skills and work experience at a remove from the examination focus. The Transition Year is an optional one-year programme that typically forms the first year of a three year cycle. Transition year is not examined, but rather is assessed, and is intended to be a broad educational experience which assists in the transition from the school environment by encouraging creativity and responsibility for ones self. The main objective of the Transition Year is to promote the personal, social, educational and vocational development of pupils and to prepare them for their role as autonomous, participative and responsible members of society.’At the end of the senior cycle the Leaving Certificate Examination is taken.The examination is the terminal examination of post-primary education. It is held at the end of the Senior Cycle in post-primary schools. The Senior Cycle caters for students in the 15 to 18 year old age group.

Note: Students entering the Irish education system after 11 years of age are not obliged to take Irish language examinations.

Students may choose one of three Leaving Certificate Programmes:

The Leaving Certificate Programme – This is the most widely taken programme in which students must take at least five subjects, including Irish (with the exception of those entering the system after 11 years of age). Those intending to pursue higher education at a third-level institutenormally takes this examination and access to third-level courses depends on results obtained.
The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) first introduced in 1989 is similar to the established programme detailed above, however there is an added vocational content and a concentration on technical subjects. Pupils taking the LCVP take five Leaving Certificate subjects (including two vocational subjects); a modern European Language and three link modules on Enterprise Education, Preparation for Work and Work Experience.
The Leaving Certificate Applied – The Leaving Certificate Applied is a two-year Leaving Certificate available to students who wish to follow a practical programme with a strong vocational emphasis. The primary objective of this person-centred programme is to prepare participants for adult and working life.While certification in the LCA does not qualify for direct entry to third-level courses, students who successfully complete the programme are able to proceed to many Post Leaving Certificate courses. The framework of the LCA consists of a number of modules grouped under three general headings: General Education; Vocational Education and Vocational Preparation


The State Examinations Commission oversees the state examinations at secondary level in Ireland. The State Examinations Commission is responsible for issuing the results of all state examinations. It also decides the procedures which allow for the review and appeal of examinations at the request of candidates. You have the right to appeal results of a state examination to the State Examinations Commission. The Commission hold records of all State examination results and you can apply to it for a certified copy of your results. You can apply for a certified copy of your results by downloading an application form from the State Examinations Commission website

Free Education Scheme

The free education scheme was introduced in 1967 to facilitate the provision of second level education for all young people. Essentially, this means that in the majority of the secondary schools recognised by the Department of Education and Science, there is no charge for tuition.

Non EU Students:

Post primary courses can only be undertaken in a private, fee paying school or college. Please visit the following website for more information on student visa requirements